My Running + Yoga Story

The running came before the yoga. And let me start off by telling you that my running journey wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies. I HATED running up until my sophomore year in college, even though I played soccer and basketball for many years. I viewed running as punishment. Something that happened when we messed up in practice and a way to put myself down by comparing myself to others. In college, this all changed. I began to run just for me. Not to be faster or in shape for my sport, but because I wanted to be healthier. Little did I know that it would teach me how to love myself.

The Sanskrit word, Ahimsa, do not harm, is a common expression you hear in the yoga world. That’s why some yogis turn to vegetarianism. However, an incredibly powerful meaning of this expression is to not only avoid harm to others but to be kinder and more compassionate with ourselves. Throughout my youth and teenage years I most definitely did not abide by this principle. I turned to putting myself down as motivation to be my best self; thinking the meaner I got the more I would be able to push myself. The opposite happened. I just began to hate myself more.

Once I began to run for myself, those miles began to be the time where I was able to actually gain perspective. I was able to see how awful I treated myself. I imagined saying what I was saying to myself to a friend. It was horrifying. I watched my reactions when I couldn’t run as fast or as far or when I surprised myself and ran my best. I also began to see my determination and my strength, both of which I never knew existed. I was relentless to run when it was cold, raining and/or snowing. I did not let the weather or things outside of my control deter me from my goal or from doing what I desired for myself.

My most enlightened moment came when I ran my first marathon, the Philadelphia Marathon in November of 2005. The farthest distance race I had run before taking on training was 10 miles and it was quite a trip for me to cover distances and speeds my old self would have never thought was possible. Crossing that finish line was a life-changing experience. I found a love for myself that I never thought could exist. After years of self-hate, self-doubt, and negativity, my running and marathon training allowed me to connect me to my best self, for I had done something I thought I could never do. AND I DID IT. I, without a doubt, would not be where I am today without this experience.

Fast forward five years and seven marathons later. My body grew tired and injured. I was completely burned out. My running high and confidence I gained through running were weaning. I needed something else. I couldn’t rely on the miles, the quest for personal records, and race accolades as methods to love myself.  I was desperate to find a way to connect with myself again. That’s when yoga came into my life.

After years of colleagues and friends encouraging me to hit my yoga mat, I finally did. I found the most wonderful teacher at a local gym and fell in love. Through the practice of yoga, I realized I was perfect exactly as I was and I didn’t need a race medal to prove that. I was able to watch, listen, and practice Ahimsa in a whole new way. Trust me, this process took YEARS and is still something I still have to practice and remind myself. Now ten years+ into practicing yoga, I have learned that I don’t just have to be on my mat to practice this. I can do it when I’m trying to put my 7-month-old daughter to sleep, when I’m trying to get a stroller, a baby and dog down 2 flights of stairs to go for a walk, when I get down on myself because I feel like a did an awful job teaching a class, when I yell at my husband, and when I feel like I’m not doing enough as a yoga teacher, mom, friend, and wife. Yoga is everywhere and is a way of being mindful; paying attention on purpose without judgment (definition by Jon Kabat-Zinn in Wherever You Go There You Are).

Running and yoga have changed my life. They have allowed me to discover and love myself in a whole new way; to see and feel my determination and strength both through movement and in stillness. To be comfortable with the uncomfortable and to get real with things that are very hard in my life. Especially now as a new mom, they have been game changers for how I practice self-care. The more I can watch, listen, and empower myself, the better I am for the most important job I will ever have, being a mom.

Being a human is hard. It’s easy to hate. It’s easy to judge ourselves. I encourage you to find something, whether that’s running and/or yoga or not, that allows you to be more compassionate with yourself. Self-compassion always wins.

With love,
Cara

 

 

RunYoga Mini Series via Facebook Live!

The 2018 RunYoga Winter series has officially kicked off and to share the RunYoga love with those who can’t join us, I’m excited to host a Facebook live mini series! You can join me every Tuesday afternoon until the beginning of April between 1 and 3pm for a short 15/20 minute yoga for runners sequence.

I’ll be posting the links to all the videos below each week so you have them for reference and can do them at a later time. Excited for you all to join me! Let me know what you think!

With love,
Cara

RunYoga Session #1 video: Yoga for Runners Overal Practice
An overall yoga for runners flow by stretching the quads, hips, chest and hamstrings. We also explore some fun forearm plank fun!

RunYoga Session #2 video: Strength + Standing Balances
This flow will strengthen not only your quads + your hips but your mind! Get ready to move with some standing balance postures and core exercises.

RunYoga Session #3 video: Deep Stretch + Chill Flow
Longer holds and sweet stretches for this practice. Perfect to do post hills, speed work or just when you want to chill out.

RunYoga Session #4 video: IT Band/Outer Hip Flow
Are your hips feeling cranky? This flow will warm up, strengthen and then stretch out those hips; giving them the love that they need! Feel free to move through this practice post-run, on an off day or for cross training.

RunYoga Session #5 video: Quad + Hamstring Stretchy Flow
This practice is perfect post run or workout. It will stretch all the right places, especially those quads and hamstrings. This sequence feels so so good!

RunYoga Session #6 video: Yoga for Runners Core Flow
Our form is an essential part of our running practice. Without proper form, we can waste a lot of energy and also put ourselves at risk for injury. In this practice, we will work core strengthening movements through ab exercises and twists as well as chest/shoulder openers which will help us maintain good running form. There are also some sweet stretches for the hips and hamstrings. Enjoy!

RunYoga Session #7 video: Happy Hips!
Part 1: Beginning + Main Portion of Class
Part 2: Cool down + shavasana
An awesome practice to do if your hips are feeling cranky and are in need of some love! This sequence will first warm up the body through core work and a little hip strengthening and then will move into some great feel good hip opening postures.

RunYoga Session #8 video: Strength + Stretch
A perfect practice to do post-run or on a strength training day. This flow will move through several one-legged standing postures that will test hip stability and strength; essential for our running. As always, expect some core work and some great stretches for a nice balanced practice.

RunYoga Session #9 video: Chill + Stretch Practice
The perfect practice to do after a hard work out or when your exhausted and are in need of rest and recovery. Breathe, stretch and enjoy!

RunYoga Session #10 video: Stretch + Flow
A more vinyasa style yoga for runners practice. Postures are held for 3 to 5 rounds of breath and incorporate strength + stretch for both the body and mind. Get ready to move and breathe freely

Open Yourself Up to the New Year

Cheers! 2018 is here. Now more than ever, this is YOUR time. Not your time to make a laundry list of everything about yourself and your life that you dislike, but to ask yourself, what do you want to cultivate and create?

Journaling and meditation are two powerful tools to ignite this questioning process and will give you all the answers. Below I have outlined a “jump start” mindfulness exercise to get this process going for you. Once you have established your intention, share it with at least one other person. The more we communicate and share our aspirations with others, the more likely they will come into fruition. Enjoy and let me know how this goes for you!

Cheers to 2018 and everything it has to offer us!
With love,
Cara

Open Your Heart to the New Year Mindfulness Exercise
All you need to complete this exercise is a pen and paper and any props that allow you to sit comfortably.

1. Breathe. Everything starts with the breath. In order to move through stuck thoughts and energy, we need to find connection with the breath. Find a seated position that is most comfortable for you, close your eyes and come into a breath that feels best for you.

2. Count 20 rounds of breath. Keep the breath slow, deep and relaxed. If you find you’re trying to rush it, take another 10 rounds of breath. Nice, slow and steady.

3. Meditate for 5 minutes. Let your breath stay at a constant relaxed state, set your phone timer for 5 minutes and drop right in. There is no “right” way to meditate. Meditation is just a process of paying attention and listening. Notice your thoughts and pay attention to what your feeling. Then let it go with each and every exhale.

4. Journal. Get your paper and pen ready and answer the following questions as they relate to 2017/2018:

  1. What was your biggest accomplishment?
  2. What was your biggest failure?
  3. What were you most proud of?
  4. What was your greatest fear?
  5. Who in your life inspired you the most?
  6. Who in your life caused the most heaviness?
  7. Where in your day to day did you feel the most unsettled?
  8. Where in your day to day did you feel the most energized?
  9. What’s your biggest decision for 2018?
  10. What’s one thing that you would do if you knew you could never fail?

5. Reflect on your answers. What themes repeated themselves? What feelings came to surface? Underline and circle those answers.

6. Write a letter to yourself and incorporate the following:
> what do you want to let go of?
> how do you want to feel?
> what do you want to create for yourself?
> What is your intention for the new year. Let this be a statement.

*It’s important to stay away from goals when writing this letter. If you find this is difficult for you, take a step back and ask yourself, what do you need to get there. For example, you want to meditate more. Instead of writing out your meditation training plan, think of an inspiring statement that lays out the foundation to make it happen. For example, your statement could be “be more and do less”. 

7. Breathe again. This time instead of counting, repeat your intention. Taking the example above, you would inhale “be more” and exhale “do less”.

8. Seal in your intention one more time. Bring your hands to your heart and once again declare it yourself.

9. Now declare it to a friend. The more we communicate our intentions the more they come alive!

10. Namaste!

 

Acceptance

Acceptance is a tough concept to practice. For if we accept something, are we choosing to be lazy or to not make things better? I’ve been struggling with this concept since pregnancy and now post-baby.

I’m living in a completely different body than I was a year ago. My body is healing. I’m not getting the sleep I once did. I’m carrying around some pregnancy pounds. And I’m feeding another human. I’m itching to be where I used to be in my yoga and my running practice. I’m craving those endorphins and feeling confident in my own skin. But my body is not ready yet. I need to accept it.

But when I should accept and when I should push? How am I suppose to get stronger if I don’t try? It’s a constant ongoing conversation with myself.

A few days ago, I completed the Fox Foundation’s 5K FoxTrot. I went in with no expectations. I accepted where I was and how my body was feeling. I ran the first mile and then ran/walked the rest of the race. I walked as soon as I could feel my form slipping (core weakness huge factor) and ran when I felt strong again. I listened to how I felt in that moment and accepted it. Was it challenging? Yes, incredibly challenging! Every time someone passed me when I was walking, I wanted to say “I had a baby 9 weeks ago and I need to take it easy”. It’s amazing how our ego plays into everything. And this wasn’t the Boston Marathon. This was a casual race for charity! But again, it’s hard to not compare to our past selves or our expectations.

I have to accept this new body I’ve been given. Instead of looking at what I can’t do. What can I do? I ran/walked a 5K nine weeks after having a baby. That’s pretty amazing! I’m also learning. I’m learning to listen and to take care of myself in a whole different way. If I don’t take care of me, how I’m I suppose to give in other areas of my life?

Acceptance is hard but it can be our teacher if we allow it to be. What can acceptance teach you?

 

My Birthing Story + What I Learned

I can’t believe we welcomed Madelyn into this world 6 weeks ago today. Her entrance into this world was anything but fast. After 35+ hours of induced labor (my water broke) and 3 hours of pushing, she made her arrival. Those days in the hospital were incredibly challenging, exhausting, and scary. There was a point where I just wanted to get a c section to get her out. But the body is an amazing thing and the support provided to me during the whole process was incredible. My husband, the nurses, and my doctor gave me this feeling that everything would be okay no matter how scary or challenging it got.

I share this story not to scare those pregnant ladies out there, but for 2 reasons:

1) Every birthing story is beautiful whether it’s according to your plan or not. I look upon my experience with gratitude for not only bringing my child into this world but for the love and support I received. All you nurses and doctors out there are truly angels.

2) Our bodies can do the most incredible things. Growing a human was one thing but then getting it out was a whole other story. I’ve never wanted to appreciate my body so much. I’ve never wanted to be so compassionate and take care of myself so much before. I’m hoping today I will get the clearance to exercise and slowly (very slowly!) get into my running and yoga practice again but if I need more time that’s okay too. Self-compassion has never been so present for me before. We don’t need marathons or training plans or practicing yoga every day to prove that we’re strong or worthy, we already are.

9 Months Pregnant! Here’s What I’ve Learned

I can’t believe that I’m 36 weeks pregnant (9 months!). The time seemed to pass by so slowly during the first trimester when I wasn’t feeling too well but now, as my due date is right around the corner, I can’t believe it’s almost here! Eekkk!

This pregnancy journey has been a wild ride and has taught me so much. I wanted to share some important lessons and reminders:

Listen to what your body is telling you. Whether you’re pregnant or not, when your body changes, it can be frustrating. I know throughout my pregnancy this is something I struggled with. I can honestly say that it wasn’t until I was 6 months pregnant that I finally accepted the change and began to really view my body as beautiful. The body is an incredible thing. It changes, adapts, and grows as we need it to. Instead of putting it down and trying to control the way it changes, it’s important to ask ourselves, why are these changes occurring? What are our bodies telling us? Are you growing a baby in your body? Are you stressed and overwhelmed and need to make changes in your life? Do you need more time for self care? All these changes start within ourselves and they will never stop happening. Instead of judging what’s on the outside, we need to assess what’s happening on the inside.

Even if you love it, if it’s not serving you, let it go. This is been a tough lesson for me to learn during my pregnancy. As you all know, I love running. It connects me to not only myself but to my community. I love nothing more than running with my RunYoga crew on Monday nights and my Marathon Sports Boston peeps on Wednesday nights. It was incredibly hard to let go. Around month 7 or so, I started to get inner groin pain while running. I decreased my mileage and frequency of runs but even running 1 mile per week was causing me pain. I heard so many stories of people running up until they went into labor and didn’t understand why this was so different for me. But it was time to say goodbye. Running was not serving my physical body and it was causing me so much frustration. I finally let it go. I looked at it as an opportunity to switch things up. I started swimming, upped my walking game (which Rudy was very happy about!) and kept my yoga game on point and felt so much better. Will I run again? Yes! Will it be a while? Yes! Is that OK? Yes! I’ll start to run again when it serves me both physically and mentally.

People love to help you. Let them! I take incredible pride in being independent. I love owning my business, managing my schedule, and taking it all on myself. Well, when you’re pregnant you can’t do it all anymore. This took me until months 8 of my pregnancy to realize. I can’t carry large speakers for events. I can’t do all the errands and manage a full time teaching schedule 6 days a week. I can’t carry my harmonium up and down flights of stairs. When people want to help you, let them! My husband has been trying to teach me this lesson throughout my whole pregnancy and I’m finally listening (sorry Jon! love you!). It’s hard to accept help. There’s something really empowering of being able to take charge and do everything yourself but I’ve learned first hand of how beautiful it is to let others in and to accept that vulnerability. People love to help and feel good helping you. Let them!

People judge you. Ignore it. Embrace your journey. Especially at this point in my pregnancy, there’s no hiding that I will be having a baby in the next couple of weeks. Because of this, I get comments regarding how I look all the time. I have found it so interesting that people I don’t even know have something to say about how I look (I get at least 1 comment every day from a passing stranger). I’m totally fine with these comments and I even add to the conversation but I know for others it’s tough. It’s important to remember, that pregnancy is an incredibly fascinating experience and it’s a beautiful thing to see. Just like our lives. Things change. Things shift. Things transform. Don’t get caught up in the comments and opinions of others. Let your journey and path be true to you. Just like every pregnancy is different, everyone’s life journey is unique.

Lastly, I finally know what’s it like to have boobs and to actually have cleavage! This might not be an important life lesson but it’s something worth mentioning and I thought I would end this blog post on a light, humorous note 😉

Can’t wait for you all to meet you our baby girl!
Sending love!
Cara

 

 

My Biggest News Yet!

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I’M PREGNANT! My husband and I are so excited to be welcoming baby girl Gilman into the world this August. This is something we have always wanted and truly feel incredibly blessed with this gift.

The journey to becoming pregnant has taught me so much. It’s always important to remember that our biggest challenges are our greatest gifts. They allow us to grow and discover a deep strength that we never knew we had.

I’m so excited to share this amazing news with each and every one of you! My due date is August 13th and I’m planning on teaching right up until then. I will be taking some time off after the baby comes, so sadly, the RunYoga Spring series will most likely be the last series for 2017. I will keep you all updated on my schedule as we get closer to this exciting date!

With love,
Cara

Trust the Process

Take a deep breathe in. Fall is here and it can be overwhelming! New schedules, new roles, new places, i.e. CHANGE, takes time for adjustment and its important to give yourself the space to find perspective.

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This is something that I have struggled with this month. As someone who loves a schedule and routine, this month as been challenging for me as I have been traveling for teaching and taking on new projects. Instead of trying to micromanage my schedule to find comfort, I have been working on becoming grateful.

As mentioned in my “Our Thoughts Create the World We See” blog post, our words have a powerful effect on our perspective of the world. So when I find myself feeling overwhelmed by change, I tell myself that this is not happening to me but for me. Every road block and every transition is providing something for us to learn and grow from.

Turning to this place of gratitude has been powerful not just in my life but I hear it day after day. A good friend of mine is about to embark through a number of huge changes in her life. In talking with her on how she was dealing with it all, she said,  “Instead of looking at what I HAVE to do, it’s important to look at what I GET to do.” Such a beautiful way of putting everything into perspective.

We can’t control what happens to us but we can control what happens within us. Let gratitude give you the perspective to see change as an opportunity to grow and to view life events as a gift, not an obligation. Trust the process.

Love,
Cara

Fall into the Running Groove

Fall is almost here! The crisp, cool air is on the way and so is running season! To get you back into the running groove, here are some tips and motivation to get you up and running!

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1.DO YOGA:  We forget that our strength doesn’t just come from our body, it comes from all parts of ourselves; including our minds and our hearts. Yoga will give you tools to control the hardest part, our mind. It will provide that extra inspiration to feel connected to your running and lastly, it will make you physically stronger and more flexible to keep those injuries away. It’s time to unroll that yoga mat and get started! Here are some specific classes and events that are for runners.

> RunYoga Fall Edition: 8 Mondays; starting September 12th
> Yoga + Running 3-Day Immersion at Kripalu: September 25th to 30th
> Yoga for Runners Weekly Class: Sundays, 12:45pm at JP Centre Yoga
> Yoga with Cara Gilman App: Download in the Apple Store
Classes + events with Cara Gilman
New to yoga? Here are some tips.

2. Be mindful: Meditation is a powerful way of completely changing up your running game. My biggest advice, make it simple. Define 1 word that inspires you to run. Sit down in a quiet space (recommend sitting against a wall and on a pillow or blanket), set your iphone timer for 5 minutes, close your eyes and GO! You might find that your mind will want take over. Let it happen. Observe what’s happening and learn from it. Keeping breathing and repeating that word to find focus. Do this same process when you’re running. This practice will allow you to tame the negative self talk and give you that extra boost of inspiration while you run.

3. Balance Your Training: Practice and repetition is key to getting faster, however it’s important to not overdo it. On average, 62% of runners suffer from injury which is most often caused by doing to much (i.e. running too many miles). It’s important to balance your training with cross training (yoga, spinning, biking, swimming). I’ve found that running 3 or 4 times a week and practicing yoga 3 or 4 times a week is the perfect balance for me. This will allow you to get the necessary miles in without burning your body and mind out.

4. Rest up. Rest is a key component of training that we always forget about. It allows our physical body to rebuild itself so we can get stronger and lets our mind take a break from grind. Yoga Nidra is a great tool I learned while I was in India. Yoga Nidra, also called “yoga of divine sleep” and is awesome for grounding your energy down for mid day nap or before bed. I’m working on creating an audio file of this as we speak, but in the meantime, check out “Insight Timer App” via the Apple Store. It’s a free app and they have lots of ones to choose from.

5. Shake things up! If you live in Boston, there are so many ways to get your miles in besides running the same route over and over again by yourself. Especially is you’re looking to get faster times, I recommend integrating speed workouts (intervals, tempo runs, mile repeats), hill repeats and running with people! This will drastically change your running game. Here are some groups, that I would recommend running with:

Mondays:
> Forest Hill Runners at 6am + 7pm
> November Project (workout varies) at 6:30am
> RunYoga Series at 6 to 8pm

Tuesdays:
> Nike Club track workout at Ruggles Indoor Track at 6:30am
> RunFellow Club at 6pm

> RunBase on Boylston Street at 6:30pm
> Forest Hill Runners at 7pm Tempo Run

Wednesdays:
> November Project (Stadium workout) at 5:30am/6:30am
> Marathon Sports Run Club at Boylston Street at 6:30pm
> Brighton Bangers at 7pm

Thursdays:
> Forest Hill Runners Ttrack workout at 7pm
> RunBase on Boylston Street at 6:30pm

Fridays:
> November Project (hills in Brookline) at 6:30pm

        Saturdays:
        > Brighton Bangers at 9:30am
        > Forest Hill Runners